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Wage bargaining, Labor-tax progression, and welfare

Listed author(s):
  • Fuest, Clemens
  • Huber, Bernd

This paper analyzes the effect of labor-tax progression on employment and welfare in an economy with a unionized labor market. The government influences wage bargaining through its tax policies. Wages can be reduced by increasing the marginal labor-tax rate. If there are no restrictions on profit taxation, a first-best optimum with full employment is realized; this first-best optimum can always be implemented by a progressive tax schedule. If profit taxation is restricted, unemployment may arise. For this case, we show that the welfare-maximizing degree of tax progression is influenced by a variety of factors, in particular the wage elasticity of labor demand, the distribution of bargaining power, and the existence of unemployment benefits. Examples are given for both progressive and regressive tax structures. Comparative-static analysis reveals that a decline in union bargaining power, an increase in unemployment benefits, and an increase in the overall work force reduce the efficient degree of tax progression.

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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Munich Reprints in Economics with number 20302.

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Date of creation: 1997
Publication status: Published in Journal of Economics / Zeitschrift für Nationalökonomie 2 66(1997): pp. 127-150
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:20302
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  1. Guesnerie, Roger & Roberts, Kevin, 1987. "Minimum wage legislation as a second best policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-2), pages 490-498.
  2. Hersoug, Tor, 1984. "Union Wage Responses to Tax Changes," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(1), pages 37-51, March.
  3. Peter Sørensen, 1994. "From the global income tax to the dual income tax: Recent tax reforms in the Nordic countries," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 1(1), pages 57-79, February.
  4. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1987. "Pareto efficient and optimal taxation and the new new welfare economics," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 15, pages 991-1042 Elsevier.
  5. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
  6. Lawrence Summers & Jonathan Gruber & Rodrigo Vergara, 1993. "Taxation and the Structure of Labor Markets: The Case of Corporatism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 385-411.
  7. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059.
  8. Koskela, Erkki & Vilmunen, Jouko, 1996. "Tax progression is good for employment in popular models of trade union behaviour," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 65-80, August.
  9. Marceau, Nicolas & Boadway, Robin, 1994. " Minimum Wage Legislation and Unemployment Insurance as Instruments for Redistribution," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(1), pages 67-81.
  10. Lockwood, Ben & Manning, Alan, 1993. "Wage setting and the tax system theory and evidence for the United Kingdom," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 1-29, August.
  11. Palokangas, Tapio, 1987. "Optimal Taxation and Employment Policy with a Centralized Wage Settin g," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(4), pages 799-812, December.
  12. McDonald, Ian M & Solow, Robert M, 1981. "Wage Bargaining and Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 896-908, December.
  13. Michael Hoel, 1990. "Efficiency wages and income taxes," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 89-99, February.
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